Kol A'Am Entt Bekheer is how you can greet a friend when you see each other for the first time during Ramadan, pronounced as 'kol aam entuh begeer' (for Dutchies).
'Ramadan Kareem!' is different way of greeting people, and certainly much easier to remember!
Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, has begun. This year it started on Sept 13th and will finish on Oct 12th in UAE (each country's calendar can be different based on the ministries' moon reading). Among a few other things, one of the most important aspects of Ramadan is that Muslims have to fast (i.e. no food or drink) from sunrise to sunset, and additional prayers throughout the day.
For us non-Muslims, even though we are not part of the Ramadan, our lives are noticeably affected by it. We are not allowed to eat or drink in public during daylight hours, so we have to wait until we get get back to the privacy of our home (or for instance here at work in the recreation room). A lot of restaurants are closed during the Holy Month, some do open, but they only deliver during the day and then open only after night falls. Rumor has it that some restaurants are open during daylight, but windows are blinded - we have yet to find those!
We also notice the other side: when the sun sets, people break their fasts with Iftar, a meal containing a lot of sweets. Often the first thing they eat is a date. It is celebrated together with family and loved ones in big tents setup throughout the city. We are still looking forward to joining one of the Iftar celebrations. Other perks are shorter working hours for a lot of people, which unfortunately doesn't include me... (Shu is happy, since her comfort food restaurant has extended it's opening hours until 2.30 am!)
We are warned by other expats that the half hour before Iftar is the most dangerous time of day to be in the streets, as people are tired since they have been up long (they have breakfast before sunrise), haven't eaten or drunk anything for hours, and want to join their families for Iftar. This makes them speed (well, when don't they speed!), and generally more reckless while driving. That's why it's no surprise that minor accidents caused massive traffic jam in Dubai yesterday. Half an hour after Iftar starts, the situation is back to normal... you might even call it 'quiet'!
Last night after the first day of Ramadan, it was celebrated in Abu Dhabi with a huge display of fireworks on the Corniche. We went with a group of friends and it was very impressive. (funny side-note, the event was announced only sporadically, so there were not that many spectators. This apparently is 'normal' around here... big (free!) events don't get advertised as much for some reason, and don't get the attention it deserves)
Anyways... we'll only see part of the Ramadan celebrations here in Abu Dhabi, since we'll be on holidays for a few weeks... among others to Malaysia, also an Islamic country and Indonesia, only the biggest Islamic country in the world ;) well, actually, it will be interesting to see how people practise Ramadan in these different countries! And we'll be in Indonesia when Eid, the end of Ramadan, is celebrated!
Read more on Ramadan, Iftar and Eid on Wikipedia. And also a blog on Ramadan around the world.